Quadrant II – invest to prevent fire fighting

One of the best frameworks from Stephen Covey’s excellent book – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – is the urgency-importance matrix.

time-matrixSource: Tina O Brien’s blog

Covey’s thesis was that effective people spend a comparatively large chunk of their time in quadrant 2 – activities that aren’t urgent, but are important. Quadrant II activities are those that require us to invest in ourselves and the long term. For example, exercise and spending time with your loved ones are Quadrant II activities. If you don’t exercise and take care of yourself, it is very likely it’ll show up in Quadrant I as a health crisis. So, in many ways, a lot of Quadrant I activities are former Quadrant II activities that we didn’t work on.

This is an interesting idea – the more time we spend in “investment mode,” the less time we will likely have to spend in “fire fighting” mode. It also gets to the root of productivity. I define work done as a function of focus, intensity, and time. And, spending time on Quadrant II is focus done right.

This is the idea I was trying to get to when I discussed waking up in the morning and getting to the news/email versus meditation. As a dear friend wisely pointed out to me, the morning, for many of us, is the only real time of the day when we can take a step back and think about where we should direct our focus. As a result, it becomes the best time in the day to plan or perform Quadrant II activities.

It is important we use it well.